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Govt seeks answers to rural broadband divide

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The British Government is to commission a report into how it can speed up the roll-out of broadband services for users in rural areas.

Work is scheduled to start this summer with the findings ready for inspection by September.

The Government is about to advertise for consultants to carry out the work. The outfit selected will be charged with estimating the likely future demand for broadband services in rural areas and assessing how much any initiative would cost tax-payers.

In February, the Government published its broadband strategy, UK online: the broadband future in which it spelled out plans to use public sector spending power to stimulate demand for broadband services in areas deemed uncommercial by broadband providers.

At the time the Minister for Textiles and part-time E-minister, Patricia Hewitt, said the Government was concerned about the roll out of broadband services in rural areas and that it would spend £30 million on the problem. At the time critics said this was a derisory sum compared with the scale of the problem.

Announcing this latest initiative Ms Hewitt said: "In a small market town for instance there might be no access to broadband and no plans from suppliers to serve it.

"But by aggregating the demand for broadband services from local schools, libraries, GPs, hospitals, police stations and any local authority service points in this market town we believe we can build a business case for a broadband supplier to serve not only these institutions but also the individuals and businesses in the town," she said.

The Government announced its plans to look into the problem of broadband access in rural areas yesterday - just a day before it announced it was calling a general election. ®

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